An Israeli backpacker is understood to be among the estimated 65 people killed by the earthquake that struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch last night.
The man, who was travelling with three friends, was in a car when the 6.3 magnitude quake struck and caused a building to collapse on top of it.
An official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there could be as many as 150 Israelis in the area, which is a popular spot for tourists.
New Zealand’s Israeli Embassy and the Christchurch Chabad centre, which was severely damaged by the tremor, have set up an emergency meeting centre to help victims of the disaster.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offered his New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully Israel’s condolences and promised to send aid to the country, which is facing rebuilding Christchurch for the second time in five months, following another severe earthquake last September.
The country’s Jewish Prime Minister John Key, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, called the disaster New Zealand’s “darkest day”. He said: "It is just a scene of utter devastation.”